G7 host Japan goes rogue on coal as renewable jobs buck global trend

Intro

Japan, host of this week’s G7 summit, is isolated before the meeting has even begun, as its continued love of dirty coal has exposed it as a rogue among its G7 peers. While the G7 collectively provided more than $42 billion in support of coal projects between 2007 and 2015, Japan was the worst offender, putting up more than half of this sum, while also planning  47 new coal plants at home. Such moves not only threaten lives at home and abroad, but they directly undermines the Paris Agreement, will cement Japan’s reputation as a drag on international climate action, and will leave Japan missing out on the huge economic benefits of the renewable energy transition and facing vast sums stranded in worthless coal assets.

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Key Points

  • Shepherd of the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, Japan was once a climate leader, but its coal push has left it a foot-dragging rogue. Japan has put both climate change and health emergencies on the G7 agenda, but whatever progress it may secure will be undone by its commitment to expand coal use at home and abroad. Japan has used the Fukushima nuclear disaster as an excuse for its lacklustre ambition to reduce emissions, but as other G7 nations look to address their long-term decarbonisation plans this year, it is at risk of being left behind and has run out excuses not to act.
  • There is no future in coal; renewables have already won. According to IRENA, solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide – an 11 per cent increase from last count, while China, the United States and Germany drove strong wind installations and a five per cent increase in wind jobs to hit 1.1 million globally. Japan enjoyed big solar gains itself, with a 28 per cent increase in employment in 2014. Japan’s love affair with coal, however, is expected to see its renewable jobs go backwards at next count, while setting itself up for huge losses in stranded coal assets.

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Key Quotes

  • “All G7 countries must work to ensure early entry into force of the Paris Agreement, giving it the full force of international law. They should abide by the principles of the new global climate regime by quitting coal, something they can make plain through the delivery of mid-century plans. There is increasing political traction amongst governments towards this – the US and Canada have promised to get going this year, Germany will follow suit, and we are seeing promising signs from France – but G7 hosts Japan are lagging way behind.” – Senior Associate at E3G, Liz Gallagher
  • “The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector. We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris. As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong. IRENA’s research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 – enough to meet global climate and development targets – would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide.” – IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin
  • “In both 2014 and again in 2015, Japan has been a world leader in the installation of solar capacity – second only to China in the rate of installations. This is motivated by an acute awareness of the need for improving energy security through greater reliance on alternative, domestic sources of electricity generation. Japan has also made commitments to join Britain and Germany in the development of floating offshore wind farms using massive, revolutionary turbines, with commercial deployment commencing by 2020. Putting aside the dual benefits of reducing carbon emissions and permanently escaping the economic drain of fossil fuel imports on the current account, this commitment will underpin the rapid development of world-leading technology that offers Japan immense capital investment along with all the associated employment opportunities of building an export industry of the future.” – Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia for IEEFA, Tim Buckley

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